Archive for June 2012
The biggest challenge with family weddings is to be as much help as possible without actually missing the sense of occasion in the “can’t see the wood for the trees” sense.
So we arrived Thursday, and have joyfully thrown ourselves into the “do whatever we’re asked to do on the off-chance that it might help” mode of operation.
Rebekah, consequently, spent Friday making floral arrangements. I asked cousin Zandra if she needed any help in the kitchen and spent the next six hours cooking. I didn’t actually make anything myself, but I did lots of pieces of the cooking and washed dishes and cleaned and cut up vegetables and fruit and stirred a lot. But I do honestly believe I could pull off a cobbler now if I had to.
Mixed in with all of this is – still – the excitement of getting to meet Andrew’s Alicia, and the wonder of spending time with David Henry. However much there is to do, this weekend is still very much all about the celebration of being a family. Rebekah is one of five siblings, and it’s not very often that all five are available for a family picture at one time…. I hope someone remembers to take it!
So this morning, as I post this, we’re heading into the cauldron of activity again. I pray that tomorrow I’ll have the opportunity to write about a life-charged wedding event, one that speaks peace and joy and promise into two young lives, ready to begin the beauty of a new family.
Regardless, there will be some more quality-time with David. And that alone is going to be worth the drive. With family scattered literally all over the world, I am just grateful for one more reason to be together..
Just a short post this morning. Not for lack of content so much as lack of time. We arrived in Virginia Beach, we’re settled in the hotel, and people are starting to arrive.
Most importantly, we finally met Alicia. She flew in with Andrew yesterday afternoon and Rebekah and I spent the most delightful evening getting caught up.
NATURAL: Let me just share – at the risk of sounding sentimental – how grateful we are that Andrew and Alicia have found one another. I’ll let the photograph tell the story, I think their expressions are much clearer than my words.
So we went out – just the six of us – to enjoy dinner together and get to know one-another. We shared stories, we laughed, we learned some family history… and it wasn’t difficult to understand why Andrew is so much in love.
Quite simply, Alicia is a natural. She’s genuine, she’s intelligent, and she’s full of life. It’s going to be a treat to watch their commitment turn into a new family and the great adventure of a shared life.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in trouble, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13
THIS WEEK’s WEDDING: We’re here in Virginia Beach to celebrate my niece Faith’s wedding to Steve. As I see the joy that’s evident in Alicia and Andrew, I pray so hard that the love that is promised at this weekend’s ceremony will be genuine, rooted in affection, and that – above all else – Faith and Steve will “outdo one another in showing honor.”
I can’t think of a better basis for a successful relationship. “Outdo one another in showing honor….”
If there’s one thing Rebekah and I work at with deliberate intention, it’s the honoring one-another part of the relationship equation. Are you listening, Faith and Steve? I sure hope so. Because nothing else is going to matter all that much if you get that part wrong.
HAPPY FAMILY: The only face missing in this picture is Craig’s – he’ll fly down from Connecticut tomorrow. Over the past few months, David has added such a spark of joy to our family portrait. And now it is the most natural thing in the world to have Alicia in there too.
Like I said, we are so grateful and so blessed. Is this a cool family or what?
Rebekah and I deliberately planned a slow road-tip to Virginia Beach because, A) We love road tripping, just the two of us in the car with some seriously loud rock-and-roll, and B) There’s always some compelling history on the way and we’d rather not blow by all the interesting sites.
Yesterday, then, was Cowpens Battlefield in the morning and then Alamance (The Regulators Battleground) in the afternoon.
COWPENS: We all know the story of Cowpens, where General Morgan finally defeated the less than honorable Banastre Tarlton. The site, which is being faithfully restored to its appearance in 1781, is a beautiful series of rolling meadows and light woodlands. Like any such engagement, the clash was an appalling and un-glamorous scene of bloody violence, where people shot and slashed at one-another until enough men were horribly wounded or dead that one side gave up and tried their best to run away.
ALAMANCE: The other story is less well-known. In 1771 a group of farmers, tired not only of increasing taxation but blatant corruption in the colonial government, assembled to demand reform. Governor Tryon assembled his militia and marched to Alamance with a simple response. “Go home or we’ll fire on you.”
Tryon bought along some cannon too, and opened fire with grape-shot before ordering the reluctant militia to fire on their neighbors. After the battle, the governor rubbed salt in the wounds by hanging several of the leaders.
The “Regulators” movement may have been quashed, but the idea of standing up for freedom would not go away.
WE TEND TO FORGET: However we feel about these terrible events, I believe it’s critically important that we know and understand these stories. We can’t ever forget. We dare not.
Always learning – it’s an important part of what it means to be alive – DEREK
No surprise, yesterday’s post picked up a lot more hits than the average day. Everyone is very excited about Andrew and Alicia’s engagement and we can’t wait to see them both Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, Rebekah and I continued our slow drive north. Monday was all rain, all the time. Torrents of if. We stayed the night just south of Valdosta and it didn’t let up until we finally broke through the clouds 50 or more miles to the north.
Tuesday our only firm destination was mid-afternoon in Baldwin, Georgia, to visit Rebekah’s uncle Charlie and her cousin Ruth. It was a refreshing change for us flatlanders to get up into the mountains. And it’s always a treat to visit with family members we don’t typically get to see.
Uncle Charlie engaged his life full-on as a Presbyterian minister, a long-term missionary to Brazil, and an innovative entrepreneur. He has some amazing stories. Not only that, but many other people have amazing stories to tell because they have been touched by Charlie’s life and ministry.
The visit made me think about the other side of this “life-charged life” equation. It’s one thing to live life without reservation, but it’s even more meaningful if we can look back and realize that we have contributed something to the stories that other people have to share.
I hope I can always remember that. Not just to live large – but to enlarge the lives of others. Now that’s living the Gospel of Love in the direction Jesus intended.
Peace and blessings – DEREK
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
So there we were, sitting around the table with some of the wonderful friends who have prayed us through so much in the parenting realm for so many years, and my phone rings. It’s Andrew.
Me: “Hi, Andrew. Mama and I are sitting here with our small group. They all want to know how you’re doing?”
Andrew: “You can tell them she said ‘Yes!’”
Me: “Hey, everyone. Andrew said to tell you Alicia said ‘YES.’”
(Note: If you’re looking for sound effects to go with this post, then imagine LOUD PANDEMONIUM BREAKS OUT right here!)
This, I have to admit, is where the writer part of me simply can’t keep up. I don’t have it. I’m a good writer, I know this, but there aren’t any words that I can type into this post that will more than roughly hone in on the emotion I felt – and Rebekah too – when Andrew passed on the marvelous news.
HISTORY: I could easily go all the way back to middle school and beyond (In fact, this story really begins in Atlanta, in Piedmont Hospital on a Father’s Day). But in the interests of time I’ll fast-forward to Bahrain, where Andrew showed up just a few weeks after a beautiful young mission school teacher named Alicia Pashby moved on to Kiev.
At the base chapel, Andrew was “adopted” by Donna and Bob Hudson (They’re an American family who had also reached out to Alicia during her stay). Before long, the Hudsons told them both they needed to meet. Andrew and Alicia, while deeply respectful of the Hudsons’ advice, did absolutely nothing. They didn’t even exchange an email.
More than a year later, Andrew moved back to Italy.
THE WHEELS WERE TURNING: In the fall of 2011, Alicia planned to attend a family wedding (second cousins) in northern Italy, somewhere near Venice. She didn’t speak Italian, she knew nobody there. And so, on a whim, Alicia sent Andrew a message. “Hi Andrew, I’m Alicia Pashby. We both know the Hudsons. Do you want to be my escort to an Italian wedding?”
Mr. Adventure said yes.
So he drove the 400-plus miles to northern Italy,”crashed’ the wedding, and introduced himself to Alicia. They pretty-much talked non-stop for 48 hours. He ended up in some of the wedding photos.
A few weeks later Andrew and Alicia met up in Vienna. Their next date was in Kiev. Then it was Tuscany; later, Milan.
Meanwhile they talked on Skype several times a week. Andrew joined Alicia’s Bible-study group and participated via Skype. It was pretty obvious to us that this relationship was not only special, but providential.
THE SHINY OBJECT: When Andrew came home for the family cruise at the end of April, he was on a quest for – in his words – a “Shiny Object.”
The result was, in a word, spectacular. Andrew has evidently cultivated some highly refined taste over the years!
BEYOND COMPRESSED CARBON: However, what has been priceless to me, and to Rebekah, has been to watch this relationship move forward in the context not only of friendship, love and affection, but of transformational faith.
By the grace of God, both Andrew and Alicia have reached this stage of their lives without compromising their foundational commitment to live as followers of The Way of Jesus. In fact, it is very much evident to those of us who love them that they are both still growing as faithful practitioners of “The Life-Charged Life.”
BLESSING: So I’ll close this most joy-filled of posts with the following blessing:
May the early sweetness of your love move naturally into the rich satisfaction that is a life-long journey. Take the challenges, the opportunities, the graces, the pitfalls, the surprises, the constant adventure… and meet it all head on with the faithfulness and commitment that characterize the kind of relationships that God uses to literally change the world for good. Love is – always – a choice; you have chosen one-another, and you have chosen well. God’s rich blessings and abundant, grace-laden, love.
- DEREK… DAD
I understand that everyone who lives around Tampa knows this already… but it simply won’t stop raining! Tropical Storm Debby – who was supposed to be traveling west and sharing a few inches of the damp stuff with everyone – is still stalled out a couple of hundred miles west of Tampa and south of Panama City.
The result is record rainfall with no end in sight. We’ve already set a new high for June, and by the end of today we’ll be at 20-plus inches for the month.
PARTY: One side-effect, even without any high winds, is downed trees and, consequently, downed power lines. Many trees – mostly oaks – become so saturated that they can’t support their own weight. Huge limbs fall off and entire trees topple in slow motion.
That’s what cut off the power at our house yesterday, and it happened right as we finished cleaning the house for a party with our Sunday-evening small group. Eventually, and with the house getting hotter and darker by the minute, we decided to call everyone and come up with a new plan.
This is what my facebook status update read around 5:00:
House clean… power out! Relocated party to Mimi’s. Will enjoy clean house later!
SERENDIPITY: It’s summer, so half our group were unable to come, but we did fill the table with a round dozen and enough noise that they stopped seating people in our section!
The experience reminded me of a conversation I had with my Sunday morning class earlier in the day. We’re studying Jesus, and we were talking about his personality. Everyone agreed that Jesus would certainly have been the kind of person who made a party buzz. Great conversationalist… good humor… attentive listener… the gift of making everyone feel welcome.
Well, Jesus was at our dinner party Sunday evening; he was there in many ways. Obviously – and I’ve always loved this image – Jesus was the “unseen guest” represented in that classic painting. But, more poignantly, Jesus was there in each one of my friends.
HOLY: You see, in the best of the small group experience, we are the presence of Christ to and for one-another.
- We may have started with a blessing, but was the content of our conversation specifically religious? No.
- Was there a lot of “super-spiritual” language in the way that we talked? Again, no.
- But… was our evening together HOLY? You bet! That’s a resounding “yes!” It was holy through and through.
“For where two or three gather in my name,” Jesus said, “there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
And isn’t that “where the rubber meets the road” in terms of our lives as actively engaged disciples of Jesus? It’s in the community, it’s embedded in the way we “do life” together, it’s in the ways that we invite Jesus to literally inhabit every aspect of our lives.
This is “The Life-Charged Life.” Can I recommend it any more clearly?
In love, and because of love – DEREK
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. - Ephesians 4:32
kay, faithful readers, prepare yourselves for several posts around the subject of marriage. Rebekah and I spent Friday evening and Saturday at the rehearsal and wedding of a dear friend. Then next weekend we’ll be in Virginia Beach for our niece’s nuptials.
Additionally, several friends (here in Florida, in other states and abroad) have recently gone through difficult divorce scenarios. So there are ongoing conversations about staying together to work things out, when “enough is enough,” how God views divorce, and what steps we can all take to more effectively honor one-another and our marriage vows.
For me (and the day-to-day journey that is my marriage with Rebekah) relationships that honor God and each other are a key element in this “Life-Charged Life” I’m always talking about.
DON AND GAY: Friday afternoon Rebekah and I drove to Keystone Heights for an intimate wedding rehearsal and dinner for our friends Don and Gay. Don directs our church Praise Ensemble, and he asked me to play some guitar at the wedding.
At dinner I offered a toast. I don’t remember exactly what I said but the gist of it went something like this:
One of the first times I met Don was at the hospital after his “cardiac event” in 1999. Essentially, what needed to happen in order for Don to move forward in his life, was that Don be willing for God to be involved in the healing his heart.
More recently, Don’s heart has needed further healing, and Gay has been a huge part of helping make that happen. So my toast – understanding that Gay, too, has needed to experience this grace – is more of a prayer; it’s a prayer that both Don and Gay will continue to be party to the ongoing grace and unconditional love of God that is the only way they have a prayer of continuing to grow and to share this blessing with others through their new marriage….
COOL PEOPLE: Rebekah and I met some seriously cool people in Keystone Heights, people who love God without reservation and who are not afraid to wear that love on their sleeve; in fact, they wear it right on the front of their faces.
My bottom line “take-away” from Don and Gay’s wedding is this: God is all about relationships that honor Jesus, and that model the selflessness, unconditional love, goodness, generosity, kindness, respect and mutual encouragement that represent the Christlike graces Paul labelled “the fruit of the Spirit.”
Both Don and Gay have been married before. And I know beyond any doubt that God was deeply grieved when those marriages ultimately failed.
Does that mean God is unable or unwilling to bless this new relationship? No, of course not. We all fail, so very often. Sometimes we fail in small ways, and sometimes the failures are monumental. The failure of a marriage is monumental – but we are all “works in progress” and God is willing to continue to put in the work.
GRACE: A marriage that works is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and grace, to a mutual commitment to the practice of grace-laden love, and to hard work by both people in the equation.
The beauty of a wedding like Don and Gay’s is but a momentary shooting star of promise. The future of the relationship depends on weeks, months and years of practice.
May God bless this union, and may Don and Gay bless one-another with the practice of grace-laden love.
WOOF! Today – and I know you’re all really excited about this – is “National Take Your Dog to Work Day.” You can, apparently, register for this event, download guidelines and suggestions, and even submit a snapshot of your dog at work to a “take-your-dog-to-work-day” photo competition.
Scout is not overly impressed. She already hangs out in my office all the time, she often rides shotgun when I visit Rebekah at the church, and she typically goes in with Rebekah Saturdays when she writes her sermon.
MOZART: I’m not sure how this would have worked with Scout, but back when I was teaching at Turkey Creek Middle School my bichon frise, Mozart, spent a lot of time in the classroom.
Mozart, who also had the gift of evangelism (but that’s another story), was a tremendous asset in my program. He was quiet; he was amazingly calm; he didn’t yap, bite, growl or shed; he’d follow my directions instantaneously, and he’d tolerate attention and petting from absolutely anyone.
BEHAVIOR ISSUES: I taught (and these were the official classifications during my era) behavior disordered (BD), emotionally handicapped (EH), and severely emotionally disturbed (SED) middle school students. Bottom line, these were children diagnosed with emotional and behavioral problems that interrupted their ability to be successful at school.
Mozart spent most of the day under my desk, sleeping. Sometimes, though, when a child needed some help making an appropriate decision, I’d let my dog sit under their desk.
“Dog time” could be a reward (take Moe out to the field to do his business… take Moe to the reading area with you… or play with Moe during free time etc.), but I’d also use dog proximity as an incentive. I’d let Moe sit with kids while they did their classwork – but the moment the student in question made a poor decision I’d snap my fingers, or whistle, and Moe would run to the front of the room and disappear under my desk.
PROBLEM: Then one day one of the regular-ed teachers found out about Mozart. She thought it would be a great idea to bring her dog to school too. Unfortunately, this dog was a Doberman and he snapped at one of her students. A parent complained and that was it for dogs at school.
“I’m sorry, Derek,” my principal told me, “but now we have to make a rule. Mozart has to stay home.”
After a while, the kids persuaded me to work out a compromise (that means a compromise with them, the principal was not a party to this conversation!). If they – collectively – achieved certain goals, then I’d sneak Mozart in to spend the day every Friday.
BUSTED! Things went swimmingly for around six months. The principal never came to my room, the assistant principal had my back, and so we were never at risk. Then, one Friday, a series of disasters complicated by an accident report and an irate parent led Mr. West to make an unprecedented, unannounced visit.
It was one of those days where nothing was going right, the kids were on edge, and chaos ruled. It was 2:00 in the afternoon and I’d long since banished Mozart to his cardboard box under my desk, where he’d been sleeping soundly since lunch. To be honest, I’d forgotten he was even there.
When my principal walked into the room, along with the school resource officer and the angry parent, I stopped teaching, turned to the visitors, and said, “Welcome to our class. What can we do for you today?”
That was the exact moment – of course – that Mozart chose to wake up from his nap. He stuck his nose out, yawned, stretched, shook himself, scurried over by my side, and stood there, enthusiastically wagging his rear-end where his tail used to be, looking at my principal for approval.
GRACE: One snap of my fingers and Moe disappeared again under my desk. But I’ll give Mr. West credit. He looked at the dog, looked back at me, paused, got to the business at hand and never said a word about Mozart. He had the good grace to never bring it up again… But I also had the good sense to bury “Bring My Dog To Work Day” forever.
Ah, the “summer haircut.”
Definitely overdue. This week even Rebekah, who likes to see a little bit of hair on my head, said “Time for that haircut, Derek. It’s starting to curl at the ends.”
I wasn’t putting it off deliberately. The unruly hair just snuck up on me.
It was a little more every week that went by without scheduling a snip. Eventually… inevitably… something simply had to be done.
Mane Theology: The other part of the equation is my hair history with Rebekah. She snipped heads back at Columbia Seminary to earn book money and date money. She held court Friday afternoons in the lobby of Simon’s Law residence hall; the deal was $2 a cut and cheap at the price when you count the great theological conversation thrown in. Professors and students, all sitting around waiting their turn, it was “the” place to be.
Rebekah continued to cut my hair for the next thirty-two and a half years. This year’s hand surgery put a stop to my sweet deal and, consequently, Candace is the second professional to step up to take a shot at sculpting what’s left of my once flowing mane.
And, yes, back in the 70′s I was that soccer player who wore a headband to keep his shoulder-length tresses in check. But I have to be honest, I really don’t miss it at all – especially when it’s 95-degrees out with 98% humidity.
SURPRISE: What always surprises me is how easy it is to avoid something as simple as a haircut, and how quickly I consistently failed to even notice the significant change in my appearance – even after my hair got to the stage where there was pretty-much no way to comb it, brush it or put it under a hat and still look anything but unkempt.
There is a sense in which habituation takes over even when we clearly don’t want things to be that way any more.
The spiritual parallel here is the lesson from Romans chapter 7 (and please don’t read in anything against long hair – I have no issues with long hair!), where Paul talks about the constant battle he has to fight when it comes to living the faithful faith-filled life of a Jesus-follower.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Paul – the guy who first articulated the fundamental ideas of Christianity – would look in the mirror and realize that there was an inconsistency between who he wanted to be (and knew he could be) and how things actually went down from day-to-day. It’s just too easy to lose our way and there we are, unkempt and unChristlike….
Paul reveals the answer to the dilemma in the first couple of verses in Romans Chapter 8 (you really MUST read the entire chapter).
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Our job is to thoughtfully and intentionally live – day-to-day – in the life-charged truth of Romans 8. And I for one can’t remotely begin to pull off something that HUGE outside of inviting Jesus along for the adventure; and that means every single day.
- I’m scheduled to teach three different classes at Lake Junaluska the second week of July…
- I need to finalize my “keynote” for the Disciples of Christ Men’s Conference in mid-July…
- I know the direction I want to take for my next book – but I really need a couple of uninterrupted weeks to get the outline fleshed out and a couple of chapters written…
Reality, however, is more properly expressed in terms of the myriad smaller tasks that often dominate the immediate landscape.
This is why God invented coffee! Coffee not only clears my head, but it brings me back to the immediate.
SHORT VIEW: Scout, on the other hand, has the short view on life.
Sure Scout is patient, and I know she anticipates events such as Rebekah coming home from work, our walk first thing in the morning, and what’s scheduled to happen in her life immediately after we get home (breakfast) and immediately after Rebekah and I eat (supper) and just moments after I brush my teeth at night (snack). But, at the root of her being, Scout lives in the moment.
There’s a lot to be said for Scout’s essential philosophy. Right now, in this moment, this is where life happens.
It really begs the question, “So why not make the absolute most of the moment we are in?” Or, as Jesus put it:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…”
I don’t think that Jesus was talking about ducking out of our responsibilities, or living without any vision or plan; I believe the Lord was an advocate of living in the moment. Not just any moment, but THIS moment.
BE STILL: It’s the same idea the writer had in Psalm 46, via the words “Be still, and know that I am God” (another translation reads, “Cease striving and know…”). It’s that sense of experiencing the Holy, right now, rather than waiting for some other time, when we can arrange for a little quiet, the “right” setting, and maybe some mood music.
Instead, the message of the scriptures is very much a, “Now is the acceptable time of the Lord” response to faith.
As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. - (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
So, I can plan ahead; I can wish I had more time for certain tasks; I can get bogged down by the details; I can get caught up in the busyness of it all…. Or I can be still, and I can welcome God into the moment – THIS moment.